Fake news has become the butt of so many jokes that it’s easy to forget it’s a serious issue.
Studies suggest that students are lacking media literacy, and can’t distinguish real news from fake news. The results of people believing fake news are dangerous and concrete; fake news is suspected of having an affect on political outcomes in countries like France and Germany, and impacting views and action on climate change.
Not only is fake news itself dangerous, but the viral spread of the concept can delegitimize very real news stories or information. A boy who cried wolf scenario, if you will.
Fortunately, people and organizations are getting wise to the danger of fake news, and they’re rallying to fight it with a few unique tactics.
1. International Fact-Checking Day
This clever post-April Fools day initiative took place for the first time on April 2, 2017. It’s promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, and partners with fact-checking organizations around the world. It fights fake news by raising awareness of it, and offering useful resources on how to identify it.
2. Librarians Leading the Charge
Not just the keepers of the quiet in your favorite public institution, librarians are getting loud about fake news. The Public Library Association is encouraging librarians to roam the stacks and offer their services to their readers. People might not accept the help right away, but they hope it builds an atmosphere of trust with some of the most well read research experts available to the public. Other ways librarians can lead the charge and redirect focus from fake news is by sharing their resources on social media, and being careful to provide balanced perspectives from middle-of-the-road publications.
3. Taking Fake News to School
Like librarians, teachers are taking up arms against fake news for the sake of the next generation. They’re doing everything from fake news “Simon Says” where students stay in the game by identifying whether a news story is real or fake, having students write their own fake news to get a better understanding of it, and incorporating lessons on the historical use of fake news during periods like the French Revolution. Even college classes are asking students to engage with social media in ways that make them think more critically about fake news, in one case by creating their own Twitter accounts to follow trustworthy sources. The end goal of all these initiatives being, of course, improved media literacy and a more critical approach to what is read online, or even in print.
4. Media Comeback
Predictably, the media is fighting its own battles against fake news. Ironically, the phenomenon also means a decline in the public trust of media outlets. Only 32% of Americans said they had “a great deal or a fair amount of confidence” in the media in 2016. While this is alarmingly low, some like the director of the European Federation of Journalists see this as a “catalyst” to reinvigorate high-quality journalism, and encourage vigilance against fake news.
5. (Re)Learning Fact-Checking
Some news organizations, like the American Press, are actively fighting to improve fact-checking initiatives. They work with Facebook to flag potential fake news stories for review. Overall, fact-checking has increased measurably with media outlets in the past few months.
Outside of the newsroom, tools like checkology, a virtual classroom, are promoting and teaching fact-checking skills to make the public more knowledgeable and news literate.
What’s a Marketer to Do?
It’s unlikely you’re intentionally sharing or promoting fake news. After all, if your brand is sharing or promoting fake news—why should consumers trust you? It’s bad branding.
But sometimes it’s hard to tell. One way you can avoid it is by borrowing the fact-checking practices of news outlets for your marketing company. In today’s world, rather than think before you speak, it should be think before you share. Or fact check before you share. Not only can fact checking improve or maintain your reputation, it can help you avoid potential libel, defamation, or plagiarism conflicts.
Another important step to take is introducing, or updating, a code of ethics that addresses the risk of fake news. Much of this code can be borrowed from the professional journalists’ code of ethics, the primary tenant being truth. This includes “honesty, integrity, accountability, and responsibility,” and being transparent about “source, sponsorship, and intention.”
To put it simply, cover all of your bases and do your due diligence to ensure your brand does not promote — intentionally or otherwise — anything but the truth. It’s for the best for reasons from public perception to legal responsibility.
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